Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gaming and India

Gaming has always been an expensive hobby. More so if you live in India. The government charges exorbitant import duties, driving the price of an Arcade Xbox 360 up to Rs. 17,000 from $199.

There are few places which sell games - online shopping is not popular in India and traditional sites' inventories are woefully inadequate. Thankfully there is some movement on this front - Groove India is the first Indian site I have found that specializes in selling games. Another useful site - Consoul where you can buy/sell and trade games. Unfortunately, they don't accept credit cards and require money to be tranferred to their bank account via net banking instead. Then there's the occasional discounts/schemes offered by Gaming Indians - mostly on PC games. Lastly, in Delhi at least, there's Gamer Dreamz, a site that offers console games on rent for charges from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1200 per month. I am not sure if this is such a good option - I can buy one game every 2 months in place of this.

Note that you can import games too - in the past I have bought stuff off Play-Asia and Shop To. Both are good, but my experience with Shop To was much better. Play-Asia has an advantage though - it often offers quirky JRPGs that dont get a US release but have an English translated Asian versions - consider Demon's Souls for example.

Also worth mentioning is Electronic Arts' India Store - this offers many EA games, at good price but only for download. Of course, you can also download many of these through Steam. The only thing is, I have long ago given up gaming on my PC - I got tired of constantly having to update my PC to in the end get pathetic framerates on games. Good PC exclusives are few and far in between and publishers seem to think its OK to release PC games with huge numbers of bugs, ridiculous requirement and invasive DRM. Consider the list of patches released for Neverwinter Nights 2. Do you know the default patcher in NWN 2 requires 10GB free hard disk space on the install hard disk? Or that patch 1.03 had over 250 fixes?

The other interesting thing that has been happening is the advent of free games - these are usually ad or micro-transaction supported. While earlier this would usually be casual games, of late even big publishers are getting into this. Of note are Battleforge and Battlefield Heroes which are based on EA's play 4 Free platform. Some other publishers are also moving to this model.

On the handheld front, Nintendo ignores India. The PSP is hugely popular here (I don't own one and never will - I have sworn never to buy another PlayStation console remember?). The interesting about the DS though is that it is thoroughly cracked - every single shop in Pallika sells a DS with a R4 or M3 or something, but I have yet to see anyone selling actual pirated DS games. You will find loads of pirated PS2 games on display, but nothing for the DS. Maybe they load ROMs if you ask them. The DS is an interesting platform - bad graphics, but popular for RPGs. There's a long list of games I want to play on it when I get time (and enthusiasm to squint on a teeny screen) But my personal favorite in this category is the iPod Touch. You can get one in Pallika for just Rs. 12,000/- and its covered by Apple's worldwide warranty. Most games on the App Store are also available in India and I have bought quite a few of them over the past months - especially because many cost less than Rs. 50, which constitutes an impulse buy - even in India.

Signing Off, Kotaku points out a list of the 100 best games to play today, as well as a list of 25 hardest games of all time. Also, there's an interesting chart of LCD screen size and Resolution vs Optimum Viewing Distance (aka Lechner Distance) linked to by Gizmodo - this shows that, for the most part people sit way too far away from their TVs to perceive the full resolution. For example, for my 32" LCD, I should not sit more than 75" away. BTW, in spite of the fact that I bought a BenQ projector several month ago, I have yet to play a single game on it :) The effort of dismantling my gaming setup and moving it the drawing room (which is where the projector has enough space for its screen) has proved to be too much for me to even try!

p.s. The PS2 is on a stand and the PS3 is hidden behind the monitor under a cloth - you can see the DualShock 3 though
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